An alternative option to being represented by a friend or representing a friend is acting as a "McKenzie Friend".
To learn more about what a McKenzie Friend is and what they can do click here to download an informative guide.
This has a two part answer: one for dealing with decisions and appeals at workers compensation boards and the other is dealing with matters in a court of law.
Can a friend Represent me?
Can I represent a Friend?
Representing a friend/being represented by a friend at WCB and/or Tribunals:
In all common law jurisdictions, the legal profession is licensed, which means a person can not perform legal services, unless they have been licensed as a lawyer. However, in simple legal matters this is not always the case. Now things get a bit gray when dealing with workers compensation.
For example in Canada, workers compensation is administered through administrative boards & tribunals. As the workers compensation boards & tribunals are not a court of law, you can represent and be represented by a non lawyer. Again this depends on your Provincial/State jurisdiction.
For example, in Ontario they have lawyers to represent people for all legal matters and then they have licensed paralegals for smaller less serious legal matters such as WCB matters.
This can be further complicated as some jurisdictions do not license, paralegals and therefore you could be represented by anyone, or represent anyone.
So to answer the question above: It depends on the WCB and the Tribunal!
For example in Ontario:
The WSIB says the following on their website: "To provide legal services on WSIB matters, a representative must be licensed by the Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC) as a lawyer or paralegal, OR s/he must be exempt from this licensing requirement. A common exemption: You may be represented by a friend or a relative who is not in the business of providing legal services, but who may occasionally help someone for no fee. If you have questions about licensing and/or exemptions you should contact the LSUC."
Ironically, this definition/statement could be challenged in court, as the Law society would have no legal argument, if the person performing the legal services is not charging any fees for their personal services, aside from costs.
The WSIAT says that all representatives must be licensed by the law society. However, it also states in their policy and I quote "does not apply to friends or family who may be present as “moral support” or to assist in an informal and unpaid manner." So long as the person performing the representation services is doing so free of charge they can represent the person.
My point here is that you will get a considerable amount of opposition from both the WSIB and the WSIAT in Ontario if you are represented by a friend or family or try to represent a friend or family member. Be prepared for a fight!
My personal opinion on this issue is simple:
The blame falls directly square on Unions and the Office of Worker Workers Advisors. If they can not provide fair competent reasonable representation in a reasonable timeframe, then a person should be able to be represented by whoever they see fit. However, I do understand that they both have extremely limited resources and abilities, but the fact still remains that people suffer as a result of their shortcomings. It should also be noted that there are a lot of outside forces that control and limit their abilities to help people, which is why people should be allowed representation of any kind, something is better than nothing!
Just because a person can not afford representation, let alone the best representation, any representation should never be denied, for denying representation is denying justice!
It is nothing more than weighing of a person right to justice over the cost of ensuring justice!
Representing a friend/being represented by a friend in a Court of Law:
In all common law jurisdictions it is entirely up to the court or more specifically up to the judge if a person can be represented by an 'agent' rather than a licensed lawyer or paralegal. In Canada for example, there are two specific cases that speak to the matter which are:
This matter went before the British Columbia Appeals Court
This is a matter that went before the Court of Appeal for Ontario